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Health Matters: Urinary incontinence and overactive bladder

The bladder is often overlooked when it comes to health, but it can affect a person's life if not treated properly.

HOUSTON — When it comes to health, most people tend to think about things like their heart, muscles and brain. Bladder health, however, is often overlooked.

It's not the most comfortable thing to discuss, but bladder issues can have an impact on your overall health and lifestyle. The two most common problems are urinary incontinence and overactive bladder.

UT Physicians urologist Dr. Hajar Ayoub says stress incontinence mostly affects younger women and it could get worse after childbirth.

"That happens with an uncontrollable urge from zero to ten, where there is no time to make it to the restroom in time," said Dr. Ayoub. "At a certain age, men and women are affected equally."

An overactive bladder, also known as urge incontinence, is mostly affected by what a person eats and drinks. That includes spicy foods, citrus, alcohol, carbonated beverages and sugar.

"Anything that tingles your tongue is going to tingle your bladder," Dr. Ayoub says.  

Bladder issues can vary and they range in severity. They can cause stress and anxiety, and even drastically affect a person's lifestyle. 

"One of the major reasons I see patients is because they can't get enough sleep because they are having to go constantly to the bathroom," said Dr. Ayoub. "They actually alter their life, they alter their jobs – if they're leaking they might change their job or retire early. They might not go out as much because they are constantly looking for a bathroom."

There are simple habit to maintaining a healthy bladder:

  • Drink about 8 cups of water a day
  • Use the restroom every 3-4 hours, even if you think you don't have to go
  • When you go, make sure your bladder is completely emptied
  •  Avoid foods that trigger incontinence

Dr. Ayoub wants everyone know that they have many options from lifestyle changes to medications. She also encourages people to see a urologist.

"There are things that would actually change your life, and I know this not a life-threatening condition, but again, this is a life-changing condition."

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